Why Blackberry’s Torch doesn’t hold a candle to the competition

Blackberry’s long-awaited new flagship 9800 – the ‘Torch’ – is now readied for release, and all told it doesn’t look particularly promising for RIM. In the super-competitive smartphone arena, Apple’s iPhone 4 and the slew of models on Google’s Android OS are blazing trails as innovative, media-rich mobiles that not only cover the bases of web, phone, email, music and video, but excel in the process. Judging by the previews currently doing the rounds on tech press websites the Torch just doesn’t cut it against the competitor models.

Sitting on the fence

I’m astonished that the Torch incorporates a sliding QWERTY keyboard as well as a touchscreen alternative. This just doesn’t make sense to me. I can fully understand a preference for a physical keyboard, particularly for the Blackberry ‘hardcore’ who justifiably see it as an essential feature, but surely the decision should have been made for one or the other. I can’t imagine a user swapping between the two in practice, once they’ve become used to their preference. One of the joys of owning a well-designed mobile handset is developing the muscle memory to use it almost automatically, as the functions become second nature over time. With its sitting-on-the-fence dual keyboards the Torch just couldn’t offer this.

Besides the botched functionality aspect, the double keyboard impacts on the Torch’s form factor considerably. Blackberry handsets, while never winning any design awards, have always have a pleasant enough appearance, but the slider element makes the Torch chunky and compromised. Also, RIM has traditionally steered clear of flash-in-the-pan phone designs by sticking to its core principle of usability, so the move to a slider – something that was very briefly impressive back in, say, 2005 – is very strange indeed.

Fails to impress

In addition to the dog’s breakfast of the two keyboards, the Torch’s screen fails to impress. Compared to the iPhone 4’s Retina Display and the Super AMOLED presentation found in the Samsung Galaxy S, the Torch’s dull screen is decidedly old school. The opportunity to use the Torch’s large screen as a great photo and video viewer has been well and truly missed.

And there you have it. Two major problems that essentially mean that the Blackberry Torch has lost the race before it has even started running. Whether the Torch proves to be a costly failure for RIM on a company-wide level remains to be seen, but it’s not altogether out of the question.

Choices

Blackberry has long relied on enterprise users as a captive market who would snap up their products for business purposes. Their competition was essentially non-existent in that area, and RIM quickly became the dominant force in that particular segment. No longer. Smartphones are by definition capable of a multitude of applications, and every single major player now accommodates the complex needs of the business user. There are choices now, and Blackberry doesn’t have the same hold over the market. While RIM has been developing the below-par 9800, Apple and Google have been busy creating the functionality and features needed to tempt Blackberry users over to their platforms. Microsoft, the past-master in the enterprise segment meanwhile has been ploughing R&D cash into its Windows Phone 7 OS, which is due to arrive before 2010 is out and provide yet another viable option for the business user.

Already surpassed technology

I’ve personally had a Blackberry Pearl for the last eighteen months, largely because of cost-preclusive iPhone tariffs and a nagging curiosity to try out a different operating system after years of Symbian drudgery on a succession of Nokias. While the Pearl provides a trouble-free phone and text platform, it falls laughably short of the web browsing and email experience of my iPod Touch. I like the almost retro charms of the Pearl, but that’s about it. It’s not a mobile to get excited about, or even feel anything particularly strongly for, positive or negative. I hear a lot about the benefits of Blackberry Messenger (BBM), but as every single one of my friends and colleagues has either an iPhone or an Android phone I’ve never actually had the opportunity to try it out.

Now the time has come to choose a new mobile, Blackberry simply isn’t on my radar. It’s a straight choice between the iPhone 4 and whatever new Android-based models spring up in the next month or so. Currently the Motorola Droid X and the Samsung Galaxy S seem to be the pick of the platform. With such fantastic hardware and operating systems available, Blackberry’s Torch just doesn’t come into the equation. Choosing the 9800 over the aforementioned handsets would be wilfully signing up to another eighteen months of already surpassed technology, and that’s not something I’m willing to do.

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Is Content Still King?

The term “Content is King” is an old phrase that used to be rolled out when highlighting the value of the written word on a website, for both SEO and general usability purposes. In essence it meant that no matter how technically brilliant your website is, if it’s got nothing to say then it’s worthless in terms of search and usability. As search engine algorithms got ever more complex over the years the inherent worth of copy perhaps dropped slightly as any number of tech tricks and tweaks reaped rewards on search.

Right now, especially with the Google Caffeine update, we’re seeing the status of copy on websites come back to the fore. It’s about the context and relevancy of the copy, and how it provides quality to the user. It’s how it should be – copy being judged on merit, not sheer volume or how many keywords were meticulously seeded onto a page.

So, if you’ve got a website that you want people to find and look at for any reasonable amount of time you really need a dedicated copywriter to keep things on message and on track.

I’ve recently been looking at some copy and content provider services online, and found a truly dreadful level of quality. Some of the content didn’t even look like it was written by a human, let alone a non-native speaker.

Here are some of the gems that I found on a few of the best ranking websites for this service;

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Lose the specifics, lose your customer

A common occurrence in advertising copy is the use of vague, flexible and ambiguous words and phrases designed to blur the lines between expectation and reality, presenting the offering as something more than it really is.

The Wikipedia community calls these types of phrases “weasel words”, neatly highlighting the sneaky intentions behind their usage.

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SEO Copywriting Essentials – Two Techie Tips

It’s well-known these days that context, relevancy and a clear copy theme are vital for SEO. In short, the more you stick to a topic the more likely it is that a search engine will judge the page to be about that particular subject and rank it accordingly. However, good copywriting alone isn’t enough to achieve positive positions on search engines. This takes a combination of quality copy that is refreshed regularly, a website that fulfils the technical fundamentals and a consistent off-page campaign of backlinking, social media and marketing.

While it’s not really the job of the copywriter to cover any technical features of a website, there are certain elements that should definitely be incorporated into your writing if it’s going to have any realistic search impact.

In this article we’re looking at a couple of these simple on-page SEO considerations – page titles and H1 tags – which when tied in closely with your copy can produce a potent response on search engines.

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Web copy truism – nobody cares about you

When it comes to writing selling copy for web, there are few truer statements than this headline. All readers care about is themselves. They’re thinking “what’s in it for me?”, “what can this thing do for me?” and “why should I be interested in this?” – they absolutely couldn’t care less about you or how great you think you are.

Sorry, but it’s true… and I’ll prove it.

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Ceefax, Teletext and the Evolution of Information

ceefax

Ceefax

Ceefax and Teletext used to be part of an almost religious daily routine for me. Every morning I’d check the pages for national football, North East football then video games, in that order. If I had a spare ten minutes or so I’d play “Bamboozle”, Teletext’s maddeningly random trivia game – only playable if you had a TV equipped with “fast-text” coloured buttons – which would give my Coco Pops-addled brain an early workout.

The service was cripplingly slow. Pages were classified by a three-digit number, and once they loaded up (which could take an age) you’d be informed how many individual, automatically timed pages were available – if you saw “1/10” you’d know you were in for a long wait. The frustration of not finishing a page before it flicked to the next one perhaps inadvertently created a generation of speed-readers.

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Ditch the jargon, it really isn’t impressing anyone…

In my experience I’ve found that people who overuse jargon are usually guilty of one of three things;

  • they’re compensating for their overall lack of knowledge on a given subject;
  • they’re trying to establish an unspoken superiority over someone by bamboozling them with mysterious and complex-sounding terms;
  • they’re just full of hot air.

Whichever one of these it turns out to be (it could be all three), there’s always a negative outcome as it’s essentially going against what communication should be about – it’s completely repressive of information and understanding.

Poorly judged jargon in everyday communication is bad enough, but in marketing copywriting it’s unacceptable 90% of the time.

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